IT looked okay, it looked good, it looked tremendous – but within 20 second-half minutes, Swindon Town spoiled Notts County’s survival party and relegated the Football League’s former oldest club out of the fourth division.

It was the latest piece of history to be engraved on the County Ground pitch. Following 157 years in the Football League, the founder members were pushed out on the final day of the season.

While Swindon’s 3-1 victory over Neal Ardley’s side did little to help County’s sorry League Two status, Saturday’s result failed to prove decisive in the visitors’ drop after Macclesfield Town came from behind to earn a point at home against Cambridge United.

Immediate reflection on the Magpies’ drop from the fourth tier was mixed among fans. Some enjoyed the playful jeering from one terraces to another, others looked a little more closer to home.

The realisation of how close Swindon are to non-league football – only 25 years after competing in their one and only season in the top flight – might just have kicked in.

A little dramatic, maybe. But it was less than 12 months ago that County were pitching for promotion from this very division in the end-of-season play-offs – how times change.

There will always be the ifs, buts and maybes. But, in truth, Town might have got their fair share of injury time luck this year.

Remarkable turnarounds against Macclesfield and Tranmere Rovers in the early parts of the season rescued some key points in the first block of games.

Fair performances at home to Milton Keynes Dons, Northampton Town, Oldham Athletic and Mansfield Town went without reward.

Then came a managerial change – a Sunday night sacking following a lacklustre FA Cup win against York City.

Phil Brown out, Richie Wellens in. Half-an-hour into the new boss’ reign, things looked good.

But four crushing Carlisle United goals made Wellens look backwards, rather than forwards – understandably he didn’t admit to that at the time.

Come Christmas, and fans still had a struggling team on their hands. But changes in January prompted a turnaround in the club’s fortunes.

Hope and rising expectation levels weren’t matched by the players on the pitch when it counted in the concluding block of fixtures, but there is reason to be optimistic – it’s the hope that can kill you.

Will you be back next season? Of course you will.

Three team changes were made by Wellens ahead of kick-off against County. Matt Taylor, Luke Woolfenden and Jak McCourt made way for Ali Koiki, Keshi Anderson and Tom Broadbent.

Of the early exchanges, there wasn’t an awful amount to report – Michael Doyle’s flicked header from a free-kick was as exciting as it got.

Town burst through for their first chance of the game with nine minutes played.

The skilful Kyle Bennett fooled Jim O’Brien to send Theo Robinson into the penalty area at an angle – his effort was underwhelmingly slashed wide.

Penetrating Town’s midfield was no issue for the visitors, but breaking into the penalty area was a task beyond their early capabilities.

David Vaughan struck County’s first shot with 15 minutes played – no problem for goalkeeper Luke McCormick, who watched the ball dribble wide.

The usually dependable Bennett was left red-faced when a free-kick from inside the visitors’ half was punted embarrassingly out of play.

Visiting boss Ardley made his first change soon afterwards – Shaun Brisley off for Enzio Boldewijn.

And the winger should’ve made an immediate mark when Rob Milsom’s accurate cross from the left met the substitute’s feet on the edge of the six-yard box.

But he fluffed his lines at the crucial moment, and Town remained level.

Additional pressure followed – Kaiyne Woolery had to nervously head behind Pierce Bird’s smart ball into the box from a Doyle free-kick.

At the other end, Koiki had a soft penalty shout turned down despite claims he was pushed by Mitch Rose.

Forty minutes had passed until the game’s next effort was registered. And it fell to Kyle Knoyle after a hesitant Robinson laid the ball back to Town’s advancing right-back.

Knoyle’s deflected effort was tipped over by Ryan Schofield, before the corner saw Dion Conroy mis-hit a half-volley.

A tremendous roar from the away end – the largest the County Ground has witnessed in some weeks – then erupted as news filtered through that Cambridge had scored against Macclesfield.

That roar was matched as referee Stephen Martin blew his whistle for half-time – County knew a goal would lift them out of the bottom two.

The second half started brighter for Town as a counter attacking move granted two chances for Anderson – both were blocked – before Bennett’s effort inched over Schofield’s top left corner.

But it was the visitors who took the lead after Broadbent conceded a clumsy foul on Craig Mackail-Smith inside the penalty area.

Kane Hemmings made no mistake from 12-yards, sparking scenes of joy and jubilation in a bouncing Stratton Bank.

It was debatably the most celebrated goal at the County Ground all season, as Ardley’s side climbed out of the relegation zone.

County should’ve doubled their tally on the hour mark – an inswinging corner from Jim O’Brien was met by Sam Stubbs on the edge of Town’s six-yard box, but his touch was guided over McCormick’s crossbar.

Emotions in the away end swung once more as it emerged Macclesfield had equalised at Cambridge.

If that news didn’t come as a blow to the travelling County fans, then Woolery’s strike down the other end certainly did.

Woolery used his pace to poke the ball beyond Stubbs before calmly slotting his left-footed effort into Schofield’s bottom right corner.

Cameron McGilp was then granted the nod to make his Town debut after signing in January – the Scottish-born 21-year-old replaced Michael Doughty, who prior to kick off collected his Swindon Advertiser Town Player of the Year award.

All hope was lost in the away end when Robinson made the most of a defensive mix-up following a long ball forward.

The loanee confidently struck Town’s second into the top corner – placing the visitors three points short of safety.

More than 6,000 home supporters then rose from their seats to grant the retiring Taylor a standing ovation as he replaced Canice Carroll.

His appearance from the bench marked Taylor’s final outing as a professional footballer – fitting therefore that he would end his career with a win.

Robinson notched once more in stoppage time to wrap up Town’s win and confirm County’s exit from the Football League.